En route to a ghost town

Along the Swazi bor­der, near Bar­ber­ton, there’s a dirt road pass that used to serve a for­mer as­bestos mine. To­day, the pass is quiet as the grave and al­most for­got­ten. And that’s how we like it.

Go! Camp & Drive - - TRAIL GUIDE | DIEPGEZET PASS - Text and pho­tos Cyril Klop­per

If you’re ever in the vicin­ity of Bar­ber­ton, put aside a day for one of the most en­chant­ing trails in South Africa. From this town (named af­ter one Gra­ham Bar­ber and not a type of fish in the Vaal Dam) you drive east on the R40 tar road, also known as the geo­trail, in the di­rec­tion of the Josefs­dal-Bulembu bor­der post to Swazi­land. About 2 km be­fore the bor­der post is a half-hid­den turn-off and a sign that reads “Oshoek and Bad­plaas”.

Long way down

Turn right at the sign and fol­low a down­hill dirt road to the base of a nar­row val­ley. The road drops 800 m over the next 14 km, which places it amongst the top 3% of South Africa’s steep­est passes. The road sur­face is usu­ally in good con­di­tion, but af­ter heavy rains you def­i­nitely won’t

make it in a reg­u­lar sedan.

The trail runs through the east­ern quar­ter of the Songimvelo Game Re­serve, which is man­aged by the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency. Although you drive through the re­serve, you don’t have to pay be­cause the trail is a re­gional road.

Af­ter 7 km a hill rises out from the val­ley floor. A twin-track runs dead straight up this hill (some­one clev­erer would have built a wind­ing road, but that’s nei­ther here nor there) and you will def­i­nitely have to en­gage low range to make it to the top. Once there, you’ll have a mag­nif­i­cent view over the val­ley. To the left a wa­ter­fall roars, Swazi­land lies in front of you, and to the right moun­tain af­ter moun­tain fades into the hazy dis­tance.

Four kilo­me­tres south is the turn-off to the Dun­bar 4x4 Trail. You’re only al­lowed to drive the trail by ap­point­ment and the min­i­mum re­quire­ments are that there must be at least two ve­hi­cles in your group

and that both those ve­hi­cles

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